everyday SCIENCE The Vietnamese Audience Development Initiative

In 2002, the Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM) launched its Vietnamese Audience Development Initiative to better understand San Jose’s growing Vietnamese community and to develop strategies for helping the museum better meet the community’s needs. San Jose is home to more residents of Vietnamese descent than any other city outside Saigon.

After gaining experience working with another cultural group—the Latino community—museum staff decided to begin working with the Vietnamese community. They also recognized that the Vietnamese community represents a fairly low percentage of its visitors and wanted to develop exhibitions and programs that would appeal to this audience.

Based on the success of the Latino Audience Development Initiative, the Vietnamese initiative used an outreach model that involved a three-phase process:

  1. Community assessment and relationship building;

  2. Development of an operational strategy, an exhibition, educational programs, an event, and marketing and governance strategies; and

  3. Full-scale implementation of developed strategies.

From the outset, the initiative brought in advisers from the Vietnamese community to build long-term relationships and to help with exhibition and program planning. “We held focus groups to find out what was important to Vietnamese visitors,” says Jenni Martin, director of education. “We learned about some cultural icons and discussed the pros and cons of having the labels translated into Vietnamese. Throughout our collaboration, the welcoming message that we sent was very important.”

The Community’s Perceptions

An analysis of the data from the focus groups shed some light on what the Vietnamese look for in their leisure destinations and how CDM did—and did not—meet their needs. Many Vietnamese parents saw a number of positive aspects to the CDM experience, including

  • a safe, clean environment,

  • important focus on math and science,

  • excellent customer service and friendly staff,

  • valuable exhibits for younger children, and

  • genuine efforts to reach out to the Vietnamese community.

However, focus group participants also pointed out many barriers to visiting the museum, such as the cost of admission, lack of transportation, parking fees, and the location. More specifically, many first-generation respondents were not comfortable with the location of the museum, which is not close to areas of high concentration of Vietnamese, making the neighborhood less familiar. They also found the logistics of paying for parking challenging. Furthermore, the lack of Vietnamese-speaking staff, particularly at the museum entrance, made it difficult

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